After six years in the NFL from 1991 to 1996, actor and TV host Terry Crews traded in his helmet and pigskin for acting lessons and a headshot. It may have been the best decision of his life.
According to the Hollywood darling, the choice to move to Los Angeles in 1997, may have been the jackpot move that made him rich. He wasn’t making money as an athlete.
It is hard to imagine Crews, who has an estimated net worth of $25 million, being poor, but he says he was.
“I have more money now than I ever had in my entire life,” he said in an interview with “Money Talks” for CNBC Make It.
The statement might come as a shock to some who know that he used to be a professional football player and believe that some of his wealth came from playing.
In 1991, Crews was drafted into pro football by the Los Angeles Ram as an 11th-round pick. He was so excited because so few ever make it into the league, and noted that people told him that.
“I told my father I wanted to be a pro football player. I don’t have the best relationship with my dad,” he shared with CNBC, remembering, “He said, ‘You know what Terry? Only 1 in a million ever get to make it to the pros.’ And I was like, ‘Dude. I’m 1 in a million.’ That’s me.”
Despite beating the odds, Crews, a former linebacker who spent most of his career as a practice squad player, says his life in the NFL was a lot more challenging than many might believe.
“My NFL career was not glamorous at all. It was kind of like being a roadie in a band that was kinda never going anywhere,” Crews said in an interview with NPR where he noted he only played 32 actual games over three seasons.
At one point he said when he played for the Green Bay Packers, he made $150 a week, adding that he would have made more money at McDonald’s. Then things got darker for him, he got cut and nothing was coming in.
The “America’s Got Talent” frontman said that the money that he had made as an athlete, playing for teams like the San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, and Philadelphia Eagles, was all gone and he had to rely on the generosity of his teammates and also some odd jobs to keep himself afloat back in those lean days of his career.
One job he had was as a sketch artist.
“When I got cut [from a team, I’d] go back in the locker room and ask the players if they wanted their portraits painted,” the hustler said, noting that he charged his former teammates $5,000 per portrait.
This hustle after his NFL career ended helped him provide for his wife and three children, he said in a speech at Utah Valley University.
He also swept factory floors for $8 per hour, making $64 dollars by the end of the day, more than he made on the practice team for the Packers. For him, had to do whatever he could to be an asset to the family.
“On my first day after taxes, I had $48. I gave my wife $20. Put $20 worth of gas in the tank. And I had $8 in my pocket.”
He said that after that job, he never was broke again.
Then he got a security job on a movie set, which changed everything, leading to his getting a job on the game show “Battle Dome” and then in movies like “Friday After Next” and “Training Day.”
Before long, Crews was a sought-after and top-of-the-call-sheet actor, even starring as a popular TV dad Julius Rock on the hit show “Everybody Hates Chris,” attributing the financial security he has in his life to hard work and sacrifice.